Polly’s PSA for food bank donors

I write this post out of sheer frustration as an employee of a food bank.

My primary motivator, however, is to encourage the hell out of you to continue donating to your local food banks.

I know that folks who donate food to their local food banks have the very best of intentions. They recognize that they personally are fortunate to have enough food to eat each day. And they have authentic compassion for those who do not.

Like the blond and upbeat super couponer sisters who come into our food bank on a weekly basis with bags upon bags of food, paper products, and personal care products. Like the young mom with the darling toddler who brought in a large box of high quality food she found in the cupboards of her grandmother’s house after she passed. Like the kind folks who have brought in fresh produce straight from their home gardens to share with the low income senior citizens we serve.

BUT.

Some food donors are missing the boat when it comes to sharing their bounty with the poor and hungry in their communities.

Like the dude who came in a couple of weeks ago with three large, and very heavy mind you, boxes, of non-perishables.

As the operator of our small food bank, it was of course my job to go through each of these boxes, organize the items, and find places for them on our shelves. No big deal. Typically, this is a joyful task for me. I get to do it usually a few times each week. It’s kind of like Christmas, because I don’t have a bloody clue what goodies are going to be found inside. The only real difference is that the goodies are not for me.

Unfortunately, in this particular circumstance, only approximately 10% of the items in the three very large and heavy boxes (oh, geez, did I already mention that?) were, in my view, fit for human consumption.

Let’s see…what did I find in these boxes? I know your curiosity must be at least a tad bit piqued by now, right? There was an opened bag of goldfish crackers which expired in 2014. There were several cans of baked beans which expired in 2015. There were multiple containers of frosting with expiration dates in 2013 (I looked at the semi-see- through bottom of them and almost hurled). Then there was a half used up box of chicken broth that had expired in 2016. The “youngest” food items expired in 2017, and disappointingly, there were just but a few of them.

Now, I fully comprehend that many non-perishable food items are technically safe for human consumption anywhere from 3-5 years past their expiration dates (I check the Eat by Date website regularly). However, I also know from experience that the seniors who come in to our food bank usually take a second or two to check expiration dates, and more often than not, they will choose the items that have not reached their expiration dates quite yet over those items that have. And really, I have too much respect for the palates of our senior clients to put food items that are a year or more past their expiration date on our shelves.

Thankfully, the dude who brought in all of that worthless, inedible food is the exception and not the rule. 

I couldn’t help but ponder, as I was going through these boxes full of food, the amount of time and physical effort undertaken, not just by me, but by him as well, to lug all this food into our food bank. What a colossal  waste of time and effort, right?! That day was most certainly the most frustrating day I’ve had at this job of mine.

So, here’s the deal: please keep being your wonderful selves through donating your food items (and don’t forget the toiletries which, btw, food stamps do not cover) to your local food banks. Just choose to have some respect for your hungry beneficiaries and take a half second to actually check the expiration dates on everything as you are packing it up. Make a choice to eat (potentially at your own risk, depending on the item) or discard those items that have long ago expired. Donate those items that have not yet been opened too. Use common sense. Ask yourself if you would want your elderly aunt to consume those crackers that expired in 2015. If the answer is no, then don’t waste your valuable time and effort and the valuable time and effort of your friendly food bank employee or volunteer by donating it. Eat it or chuck it!

Anyone who has the impulse to say to me “beggars can’t be choosers” can stick it. That really is a phrase that ought to be outlawed. The dear folks that come into food banks do not deserve to be called beggars. They have not chosen to be poor. They would much rather not have to come into a food bank. It’s demoralizing. Many of them are subsisting (or trying their damn best to) on less than $1500 a month from Social Security or SSDI. Often, their rent or mortgage payments are 50% or more than what they get each month. Doesn’t leave much for food, does it? They deserve good quality, not-yet-expired food to eat. Just like the rest of us.

 

Quantity over Quality or vice versa?

I recently read a blog post, written by one of my most favorite bloggers, that turned my approach to writing on it’s head. For the longest time, I’ve been tied to the notion that I needed to focus on quality over quantity with my blogging. This has led to many hours of starting and stopping blog posts, editing and re-editing, and not a small amount of anxiety. Because in my mind, it will be the “high quality” (according to me, and why am I only considering my opinion anyway? Good question) blog posts that will launch my writing into infamy.

Thankfully, CJ set me straight. She explained so clearly in her post how writing more, producing actual crap, and then writing even more leads to improvement as a writer. Quantity begets quality, if you will.

The lesson of the students in the ceramics class being split into two, with one group being tasked to produce one “perfect” pot and the other group tasked to produce as many pots as they possibly could within a set time frame was spot on. When I began reading this post, I made the assumption (you know, making an “ass” out of “you and me”) that the group that was tasked with making the “perfect” pots were going to “win” in the end. Because they were going to be taking their time. Visualizing what the end result was going to look like. Focusing their creativity on one simple “perfect” thing.

I was so wrong.

Of course, the students that made multiple pots were the winners in this scenario. They learned from their mistakes as they created pot after pot.  They no doubt tried different techniques and let their creativity flow, being untethered to the idea of creating just one perfect pot. And I’m sure they had way more fun than the other group.

That’s what I’m starting to do with my blogging. I think it could also be referred to as “Spitballing”, a term of which I am especially fond. As in, writing like a madwoman on random topics or just random thoughts about random things and putting them out there on my blog (or not). Seeing what sticks. Being okay with those posts that end up not sticking.

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Onto the next topic, which is slightly related. But maybe not. 

There are cases, of course, where quality should trump quantity. For instance, my t.v. watching habits. Because while I enjoy getting all comfy at night and gorging on the boob tube, my time is precious. I don’t necessarily need to thoroughly analyze each and every television show I enjoy and weigh their merits, but I think it behooves me to be a little thoughtful about it.

I figure I’ve got roughly 14 hours per week (is that high or low? I have no way to judge this) of time to watch television. There are several shows I enjoy watching. Some with Hubs. Some all by my lonesome. This 14 hours per week is not counting the approximate 1.5 hours daily of news/political programming Hubs and I always watch together (local news, MSNBC, and of course Full Frontal with Samantha Bee).

Perhaps I am watching too much t.v.

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My couch potato inspiration, Liz Lemon

Anyhoo, here’s my list of quality television, according to me-don’t judge, that I will resume watching this fall:

  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • 9-1-1
  • The Orville
  • The Good Place
  • Shameless
  • This is Life with Lisa Ling
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • This is Us
  • SNL

So there is some room there for new programming. Approximately 4 hours per week  (perhaps more if I skip to the end on that second, mostly unnecessary second episode of DWTS, to learn who’s dancing abilities sucked enough that they are booted from the show) left. This is where my radar for quality television needs to be employed. I’ve been semi paying attention to the new crop of shows coming out this season, and so far the only one I’m certain to check out is “Murphy Brown”. I watched that back in the day and always found it smart, funny, and entertaining. The re-boot of this show is featuring the same four actors playing the same four characters but in current times, aka “The Trump Era”, which particularly piques my interest.

The only other show I can fathom adding to my list, based on my personal standards of quality  is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. I watched the first episode when it initially came out and really enjoyed it. I suppose the only reason why I haven’t picked it up again is because it was too “chick flick-y” for Hubs. So clearly this is one to watch all by myself, on those odd days when I’m home alone or the nights when Hubs goes to bed extra early.

Time will tell if there will be other shows I check out.

Tell me, fellow bloggers, what is your take on “quantity vs. quality” or vice versa, in relation to writing and/or t.v. watching? This curious mind wants to know 🙂

Quick post about my mom

Back when I was a freshman in college, when I was busy learning how to share a dorm room with strangers, how to properly do my own laundry, and who my real friends were, my parents decided to take a trip to Europe. England was their first destination, on account of having people to actually visit there (our AFS student, Lisa, and her family).

My mom (aka the local celebrity) has always had a spontaneous nature. She couldn’t help but imagine herself going to England and having tea with the Prime Minister. So she decided to write a letter to Margaret Thatcher to request a meeting.

I like that she did this. It falls into the category of “what’s the worst that could happen?” Ms. Thatcher says no, I’ve got dignitaries to meet and butlers to order around. At least mom could say she tried.

Within a month or so (I’m totally guessing here), she received a letter in the mail. Straight from 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister was unfortunately unavailable to meet with Bonnie from northern Minnesota. Mom framed it and it continues to be hanging on the wall in the home I grew up in.

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At the time my mom did this, I thought it ridiculous. And really, it was.

However, the take-away here is important: you don’t know what is possible unless you try. And if things don’t pan out the way you wish them to, you might just have a good story to tell about it later.

Thanks for that, Mom.

 

 

My just in case post

This could just as well be called the “Where I’m at” post.

This is the post I’m writing just in case I don’t manage to get my act together and create a new post to publish on Wednesday centered on one specific topic.

Because I have company coming soon.

The company that is coming is my dear sister in law, my husband’s one and only sister.

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Miss Mary and I on her last visit to Colorado

Because I’m also working this week (one only gets so much paid vacation as a part timer) and I’m determined to make my sister in law’s Colorado vacay as awesome as can be, I’ve been in a bit of a mad rush these last couple of days planning meals and activities for us to enjoy together this week.

Bottom line-publishing a blog post is not quite as high on my list of priorities at this particular moment in time. 

Please know that I am not complaining. This planning and hosting people we love coming from hither and yon in our empty nest is totally my jam.

I’ve got a ton of draft posts started, which have largely been inspired by interacting in my new bloggers group on Facebook (shout out to Gin and Lemonade blogger’s group!). One is a movie review. Another is about food. Another is a funny anecdote about my mom. It’s a toss up as to what I will actually publish next.

But truthfully, you probably won’t see any of these posts this week. Because I will be too busy enjoying catching up with Miss Mary, showing her the sites (likely many of which neither Hubs or I have not yet seen), and of course, working.

Beauty in Song Form

Anyone who has been following this blog even for a little while gets that I am obsessed with music. And that I love to write about it. For reference, I blogged about my  appreciation for music here, here, and here.

True confession: I’ve always fantasized about being a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. That just might be the coolest job ever, in my opinion. Oh, the people I’d meet! The things I’d learn! The music I’d be exposed to!

I am also a huge fan of creating Google playlists. One of the many I have created is my “Beautiful Songs” playlist. This is the one utilized during those times when I feel the need for self care.  When I’m feeling contemplative. It is composed of songs that I want to hear when I’m by myself during a long drive. Or when I’m home alone, cooking a good meal to enjoy when Hubs comes in from work (a rare occasion, these days, and admittedly very traditional, in a Leave it to Beaver sort of way). These are the songs that I will stop whatever it is I am doing (unless of course I’m behind the wheel) and pause to enjoy until the last sweet notes.

My Beautiful Song playlist is a *WIP, just like me  (no, I am not finished with acronyms quite yet). Actually, all my playlists are WIP’s. That’s what makes them so much fun for me to create. They can be customized to my own personal moods and tastes.

Here’s a sampling of what you can find on my Beautiful Songs playlist, and why they belong there:

Wildflower, by Skylark: I’m pretty darn sure that Skylark was one of those one-hit wonder kind of bands. If they were destined to fall into the category of one hit wonder bands, they should be quite proud that this was that one hit, right? The lyrics bring tears to my eyes, as they remind me of someone I love very much who is struggling to find her strength as a young woman in this world.

Sunshine On My Shoulders, by John Denver:  When I hear the first few lines of this on the acoustic guitar, my heart fills up and my eyes begin to well up. Pure auditory beauty.

Nobody Does it Better, by Carly Simon: The melody and musicality of this one, accompanied by Ms. Simon’s powerful vocals blows me away every time I hear it.

Wonderful Tonight, by Eric Clapton: The first time I heard this song, it was at my Aunt Connie’s house. She was always a huge fan of music and frequently would insist we all shut up and listen to her favorite new song (think we share some genes? ha!). This was one of them. At her funeral (stupid fricking cancer), just a year ago now, once everyone was seated for the service, this song was played. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

This One’s For You-Barry Manilow: Yes, I will admit that I am a lifetime fan of Barry Manilow. I recognize that this statement is unlikely to entice anyone from Rolling Stone to come a’knocking on my door to offer me an opportunity to write for them. The first concert I ever went to was Barry Manilow. I went with my mom, my aunt, my cousin and a couple of other family friends.  My cousin Brett and I were totally over the moon (being the “hip” 12 and 14 year old children of the 80’s that we were) about seeing Barry live. We even created a big sign that was emblazoned with the words “We Love you, Barry”. This particular song of his may be the one I find the most beautiful. It is quite likely I’ll be adding more Barry Manilow songs to this playlist (remember it’s a WIP!).

Here we go again, performed by Ray Charles and Norah Jones: Okay, people. If you are still reading this stop and listen to this song. It’s smooth and sultry, like a fine wine for your ears. Trust me, it’s simply gorgeous. You can thank me later.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-Elton John: I gotta say, I’m a bit particular when it comes to Elton John. I dislike much of the music he put out from about 1985 to the present. But man, he really had some awesome songs before that. This one is probably my favorite, with the beautiful piano start and the questions: When are you going to come down? When are you going to land? Wow.

Harvest Moon by Neil Young: I think Neil Young is one of those artists, much like Bob Dylan, who people either really love or really dislike, voice-wise. Personally, I love his voice. I love that it’s not perfect. I love the way this song starts, with the simple ba-da, da-da-da-da-da and the percussion (you know that little brush they use on a drum).  And the harmonica then the trombone towards the end make it extra special, like the cherry on top. It’s just such a sweet tune to me. My sister and I recently enjoyed a performance of this song by a two man band while sipping craft beer at an outdoor patio in Duluth, Minnesota. I know now that I’ll always think of this moment with her when I hear this song again.

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So, fellow music fans:  What songs would you have on your own personal “Beautiful Song” playlist?

*WIP: Work in progress.

 

 

 

AFA: AKA-Appreciation for Acronyms

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As a person who delights in the English language, I particularly enjoy a good acronym. With the exception of the times when I’ve begun a new job. Co-workers fling acronyms around like our President lies, and until I’m there for a decent chunk of time, I’ve no idea what they mean.

Just for fun, here’s my commentary on my acronyms:

NOAA: Someone I know and love very much works for NOAA (clue: he’s a scientist). He has been known to refer to this acronym as the “National Organization for the Advancement of Acronyms”. Because of course in his field, acronyms abound.

MIAT: This one was created by the great comedic writer, Sarah Silverman. It stands for “Make it a Treat”. I know from personal experience, however, that this one can be overused, especially when the “treats” are the edible kind. I truly need to utilize this one sparsely. Or perhaps I ought to create myself a list of what qualifies under the MIAT acronym that doesn’t involve food.

FEPP: Focused. Engaged. Patient. Positive. This one is my own creation and I pull it out whenever I feel like my brain is all over the place. Like now.

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AF: I learned what this one meant shortly after I began using Twitter. It seemed to punctuate so many tweets and I was simply clueless as to what it meant. So I asked other folks in Twitterland what it meant. I eventually got the correct answer: As Fuck. I believe some of my fellow tweeters enjoyed my naivete as the first response (from the Bloggess, no less) was Air Force.

FYI and ETA: these are ones I commonly use, especially via text. FYI is an attention grabber; it emphasizes the importance of the forthcoming information to the textee. ETA is straightforward and requires a specific response, which is especially appreciated if the texter is anxiously awaiting your arrival.

YOLO: While admittedly overused in our society, this remains a favorite of mine. It speaks the truth: that at least as far as we all know, you only live once. So make it an interesting ride by saying yes to adventure in the here and now.

KISS: A very versatile acronym/mantra I use very liberally. I wrote about it here.

FML: This is actually one I despise,  because it’s typically used in the context of someone complaining about a first world problem. It’s negative and hopeless. A total downer.  I am so turned off when people use this one on Facebook.

WIP: What does it mean? This one was used by another blogger in a comment she made on a recent post of mine. I asked her what it meant and I am honestly still awaiting a response. Perhaps she thought it a dumb question, unworthy of an answer. If that’s the case, so be it. I suspect it is one of those special acronyms specific to the blogging world. But I like to think it means “Work in Progress”. Seems appropriate, right?

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My new favorite acronym!

 

Que Sera, Sera

I’ve got an earworm these days. This is thanks to our receptionist at work who continually has the 60’s station playing on Pandora or Spotify or whatever the hell audio service she uses. I commented to her that I remember my mom singing this song to me when I was growing up.

Now, mind you, my mom cannot carry a tune. In fact, I recall a story she often told about her youth. It goes something like this: when she was in high school, back in the early 50’s, she desperately yearned to be a member of the choir. However, she was self aware enough to know she did not possess the ability to carry a tune. So her mother, one of my two Grandma Pearls (ironically enough), despite the fact that she and Grandpa were by all accounts quite poor, attempted to bribe the choir director with cold hard cash to get mom into the choir.
Unfortunately, for my mom, this plan didn’t work. She was still rejected.
As a kid, I couldn’t care less that mom lacked any singing talent. Her voice singing Que Sera, Sera, among other songs I can still vividly recall, was full of love and tenderness for me. That is all that mattered.
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Now, back to the song. The line that especially sticks with me is “Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera”. Repeating this to myself brings on a sense of calm. It compels me to focus not on the future, which none of us have control of, but on the present. On the now.
And in the now, I will be traveling to Minnesota to spend time with my mom.

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